There was considerable progress reported at Thursday's California Horse Racing Board meeting to provide some assurance to horsemen that adequate stabling will be in place following the closure of Hollywood Park, which is scheduled to run its final live race meeting this fall. No formal agreement was reached, with the board voting to delay the issue until its September meeting, giving the various parties time to work out final details.
Among the deal points announced by CHRB chairman David Israel was an agreement by Hollywood Park to keep its stable area and racetrack open for training through Jan. 31, 2014, and “maybe considerably longer.”
The Inglewood track did not request racing dates for 2014 and had indicated its stable area would close Jan. 1 as the property is prepared for development by parent company Bay Meadows Land Co. No one representing Hollywood Park spoke at the August CHRB meeting, but Israel indicated the track could remain open for training much longer than the new deadline of Jan. 31 and that Hollywood Park was negotiating with Los Alamitos in Orange County to operate a Thoroughbred meeting there.
Among other areas of agreement announced by Israel or others but not formally adopted by the board were:
–Los Alamitos plans to expand its main track from five furlongs to one mile by Jan. 1, 2014. The expansion includes a widening of the turns and additional stabling for up to 700 Thoroughbreds, which will be kept in a separate area from Quarter Horses that compete there year-round.
–Beginning in 2014, Los Alamitos will seek a two-week summer meeting bridging the Santa Anita Park winter-spring-summer meet and the Del Mar summer meeting; and a three-week fall meet bridging the new Del Mar fall meeting and the traditional opening of the Santa Anita season on Dec. 26. Santa Anita would give up the final week of its meeting in July to facilitate Los Alamitos, and Del Mar would give up the final week of its new fall meeting in December 2014 to provide extra dates for the Los Alamitos winter meet. Los Alamitos plans to offer night Quarter horse racing after the summer Thoroughbred programs conclude.
–Los Alamitos would operate both meetings under its name unless Hollywood Park kept its stable open for a longer period of time and the industry “in unison” – in the words of Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie – demanded a deal with Hollywood Park to operate one of the meetings. Commissioner Steve Beneto said it was time to “cut the cord.” “Forget Hollywood Park,” Beneto said. “It's the tail wagging the dog and I don't like it.”
–Joe Harper, CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said he would lobby the track's “landlord” – the state's 22nd Agricultural District in north San Diego County that owns the racetrack property and fair grounds – to keep Del Mar's stable area open for training year-round in anticipation of Hollywood Park closing.
–Fairplex Park, the off-site stabling area preferred by the majority of California Thoroughbred Trainers members, would be part of the 2014 stabling solution, at least in the short term.
–San Luis Rey Downs training center in Bonsall would seek approvals to expand from just under 500 stalls to 800 stalls and follow through on its previous pledge to build a turf course. It is currently being renovated.
Commissioner Beneto chastised Santa Anita Park executives during a proposal on marketing for “putting the cart ahead of the horse,” and urged owner the Stronach Group to renovate the stable area at the Arcadia track. The remark drew loud applause from the audience attending the meeting at the Del Mar simulcast building.
In other news, the CHRB approved a request from the Breeders' Cup to have similar protocol on race-day administration of Lasix (also known as furosemide) in 2013 as was in place at the 2012 championships. No Lasix will be permitted race-day in the four races for 2-year-olds, and the anti-bleeder diuretic will be administered by third-party veterinarians approved by Breeders' Cup in the other championship races. (Clarification: In addition to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Turf, and Juvenile Filllies Turf, a non-championship race called the Juvenile Turf Sprint will be run under the no-Lasix rule as it receives Breeders' Cup funding to supplement the purse.)
There was considerable discussion about conducting research on the effect the absence of Lasix might have on 2-year-olds, but CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur said owner permission would be required to endoscopically examine every horse for exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. There apparently will be a check-off on Breeders' Cup entry forms giving permission to veterinarians to scope 2-years-old post-race to see if they bled without medication.
It was during this debate that Joe Morris, executive director of Thoroughbred Owners of California, confirmed that 2-year-olds participating in the 2014 Breeders' Cup – also at Santa Anita – will be permitted to run with Lasix. That issue was raised by the Paulick Report earlier this year after TOC sent a letter to Breeders' Cup saying “California is not interested in hosting the 2014 Breeders' Cup if Lasix is not allowed for all races.” Horsemen's groups in other states have sent similar messages to the Breeders' Cup. With the exception of New York, horsemen's consent is required for simulcast agreements.
Finally, the CHRB approved a change in its recently revised claiming rules that automatically voided claims in the event a horse was placed on the vet's list by the state veterinarian while cooling out within an hour after a race. The new rule will give the person claiming a horse the option to override the automatic void in those instances where the horse was put on the vet's list. The rule was adopted in recognition of owners claiming a filly for breeding purposes or claiming a horse to retire it from racing.
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